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Orthopaedic Surgery

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Conditions We Treat: Shoulder Dislocations and Instability

When your shoulder joint becomes loose and leaves the socket, it’s called shoulder dislocation, or shoulder instability. The more frequently your shoulder fully or partially dislocates, the more unstable it becomes. Shoulder instability can also be caused by prior shoulder injuries, overuse or genetic conditions. But no matter the cause, our Johns Hopkins shoulder specialists are here to help you find the right treatment approach.

Shoulder Injuries | Q&A with Dr. Edward McFarland

Orthopaedic surgeon Edward McFarland, M.D., director of the Division of Shoulder Surgery, talks about shoulder dislocation and subluxation (partial dislocation). He discusses common causes of these shoulder injuries, how they can be treated and what the recovery process looks like. Dr. McFarland also addresses the risk of redislocation after the surgery and who is most likely to experience it.

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Shoulder Instability Treatment: Why Choose Johns Hopkins

  • Our shoulder experts have access to different diagnostic tests to pinpoint the exact cause of your shoulder instability, including X-rays, MRI scans and dye tests (arthrograms).
  • Patients come to us with a variety of shoulder problems, including forward, downward and backward dislocations, as well as multidirectional shoulder instability.
  • Our shoulder surgeons see numerous patients with prior failed shoulder instability treatments and other complex cases.
  • Shoulder instability, dislocation and sublaxation (partial dislocation) can be accompanied by shoulder trauma, such as shoulder labrum tears and bankart tears, which our team is also experienced in treating.
  • Our shoulder and sports medicine specialists treat patients with nonsports-related shoulder instability and dislocations, and also work with athletes to meet their unique health needs.

Shoulder Instability and Dislocation Treatment Options

Some patients may need shoulder stabilization surgery to repair or tighten loose or damaged tissues that cause instability and dislocations. Our experienced surgeons can do either an open procedure that uses a larger incision or an arthroscopic shoulder surgery that uses several small incisions to insert a camera and tools.

Many patients don’t need surgery for shoulder dislocation and instability, as their condition can often be remedied by a combination of the following treatments offered at Johns Hopkins:

  • Restriction of movement and rest to help shoulder muscles and tendons recover
  • Physical therapy to prevent stiffness and restore the range of motion
  • Icing and medications to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Activity modification to prevent future dislocations if they are caused by a specific activity

Considerations for Shoulder Stabilization Surgery

Our shoulder specialists carefully consider your condition and health history before recommending surgery. Often, the same procedure, such as tightening of the shoulder capsule, can be done either with open surgery or arthroscopy. Request an appointment with one of our shoulder specialists to find out which treatment approach will work best for you.

Dr, McFarland with a model of a shoulder joint

Edward McFarland, M.D., with a model of a shoulder joint.

Our Team of Shoulder Specialists


You can rely on the experience and expertise of our shoulder specialists, who have helped numerous patients with shoulder instability.

Edward McFarland, M.D.
Uma Srikumaran, M.D.
Andrew Cosgarea, M.D.
Sameer Dixit, M.D.
Miho Tanaka, M.D.
John Tis, M.D.
John Wilckens, M.D.
Bashir Zikria, M.D., M.Sc.

Learn more about our shoulder specialists.

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